Photo by Mark Brown
Father Chris Collins, incoming Vice President for Mission, during a Holy Thursday mass in the Chapel of St. Thomas Aquinas

Deepening Faith

Father Chris Collins '93 seeks to strengthen the community.

Father Chris Collins has been eager to start building community at St. Thomas and within the Twin Cities ever since arriving on campus in February ahead of his July 1 appointment as the new vice president for mission.

Collins, who stepped into his role after Father Larry Snyder’s retirement, is focused on upholding the university’s Catholic mission by bringing together students, staff and faculty in ways that will advance the common good.

With a return to campus for fall semester, he said, “It’s a time to celebrate being together, but also we should have a grieving process for the loss people have gone through with the pandemic – with loved ones who have died or been sick.”

Here's what’s on his action plan for the coming year.

Build community

Collins wants his division, which oversees Campus Ministry and the Center for the Common Good, to create a welcoming space for staff and faculty who are new to campus.

“Under Father [Larry] Snyder’s leadership, a lot has already been done to strengthen the support for Catholic students to grow in their faith and to give opportunities for students of other varying faiths to deepen their faith while they are at St. Thomas,” said Collins.

“Students will have their own activities to draw them together,” he said. “It’s important to also build community to incorporate people who started to work at the university while we were remote and introduce newer faculty to what is unique about Catholic education.”

Mobilize alumni

Collins led the university in virtual prayer the week America learned of the killing of Daunte Wright and the triple guilty verdict in Derek Chauvin’s trial for the murder of George Floyd.

“He has a deep passion for promotion of racial equality, for reducing poverty and homelessness, and for helping students turn their own passions into action,” said President Julie Sullivan.

In helping St. Thomas play a greater role in addressing disparities in educational outcomes, Collins, a Jesuit, said, “I would like to explore different ways that we can mobilize our alumni network to serve in these different areas, as well.”

Serve the common good

His longer-term plan, Collins said, “is to discern the best ways the different parts of the university can serve the common good of the Twin Cities and look for ways we can be of service nationally and around the world.”

“Father Collins’ goal is to create a variety of experiences and ongoing opportunities to help people find themselves in ways that pertain to the Catholic mission that we all share,” Sullivan said.

Instill passion for mission

An additional area Collins is exploring is including staff in formation experiences for mission. “That could be through a variety of speaker series or panel discussions and learning what we mean by serving the common good and coming to an understanding and appreciation of a
Catholic higher education. 

“Every human person is sacred and created in the image and likeness of God and for that reason deserves reverence and respect,” Collins said. “It is incumbent upon us as a whole community to make sure we are constantly inviting all people in to be a part of the whole community that serves the dignity of humankind, and therefore the common good.”

Growth from His Tommie Roots

Father Chris Collins is a Tommie! And so are his father and sister. He graduated from St. Thomas in 1993 with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and completed his doctorate in theology at Boston College. Most recently, he served as assistant to the president for mission and identity at Saint Louis University.

Father Christopher Collins
Father Christopher Collins poses for a portrait in Aquinas Chapel on January 26, 2021.
Photo by Mark Brown

5 More Facts About Father Chris

• Raised in Phoenix

• Lived in Ireland Hall as a student

• Taught English and theology at Cotter High School in Winona, Minnesota

• Worked with the Lakota as a pastor in South Dakota

• Taught a Theologies of Justice and Peace course at St. Thomas spring semester

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